Clotilde Dusoulier, author of 'Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris' and 'Chocolate and Zucchini,' answered your questions on Paris and food.
Chattanooga, Tenn.: Heading to Paris next month. Can you recommend a good restuarant(s) to have a good, but not necessarily super-fancy or expensive meal in Paris. We will typically be eating picnic-style from markets, but we would like to have at least one French cuisine dining experience while in Paris. Thanks!
Clotilde Dusoulier: Paris offers plenty of what we call "neo bistros," i.e. casual restaurants that offer great food for a reasonable price. I can for instance suggest Au Fil des Saisons in the 3rd, or Le Pré Verre in the 5th.
St. Paul, Minn.: I will be in Europe from 9/5/08 to 9/22/08. While in Paris from 9/15 to 9/22, I would like to dine in Alain Ducasse's restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, Le Jules Verne for lunch. I would welcome any advice on obtaining reservations or other tips. Thanks for your help.
Clotilde Dusoulier: Excelent idea—the lunch service at Le Jules Verne is an very good deal. Reservations for lunch are not too difficult to come by: call two or three weeks in advance to be safe, and don't forget to request a windowside table.
College Park, Md.: Hi, Clotilde! Your blog is wonderful. I was wondering if you could recommend some good strategies for vegetarians who love Paris but don't want to starve? Any restaurant recommendations? Thanks!
Clotilde Dusoulier: Rather than going to all-vegetarian restaurants (I'm usually not impressed by the ones we have in Paris), I recommend going to vegetarian-friendly restaurants that offer vegetarian options, or whose cuisine is so vegetable-oriented you will find it easy to get by with a few adjustments. I can mention Rose Bakery in the 9th, Soya in the 11th, or Macéo in the 2nd.
St Nicolas du Pelem, Brittany: We love day trips to Paris, but have yet to find a decent 'formule'. We seem to find expensive mediocre food, especially in the tourist spots. We are looking for a possibly family run restaurant, that has a set lunchtime menu for a good price.
Clotilde Dusoulier: Good lunch deals abound in Paris if you know where to look—lunchtime is actually the best time to eat out if you're on a budget. Two lunch formules that spring to mind are that of Mon Vieil Ami, a handsome bistro on Ile Saint-Louis in the 4th, or that of Autour d'un Verre, a homey wine bar in the 9th.
Minneapolis, Minn.: I will be in Paris (for the first time) with 4 other women friends (all of us in our 40's) this June (16-18th). With the value of the American dollar going down, what would be your recommendation for "tasting" Paris on a budget? Also, do you have any recommendations for the wine lovers in our group? Merci, Laura
Clotilde Dusoulier: To enjoy Paris on a budget, one of the tips I can share is to take advantage of greenmarkets and food shops : buy quality prepared foods (quiches, terrines, salads, cheese, bread, fruit, pastries) and eat "picnic-style" for at least part of the time. Renting an apartment with a kitchen is also a great money-saving strategy.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: My teenage daughters and I will be traveling to Paris in less than a week. We do not speak French, and are wondering how to find places that speak English, and are "American Friendly." We hear stories about the French not liking non French speaking customers. Any advice on how we can plan an itinerary that includes safe areas and menus we can read and easily order from would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
Clotilde Dusoulier: That's a great question, as the language barrier can sometimes get things off to a faulty start. My first recommendation is that you try to find a little time before you leave (or on the plane!) to learn a few very basic words and phrases; it really is the best investment you can make to prepare for your trip.
The idea is simply to show that you're making an effort: people will then be happy to meet you halfway. And regardless of your language skills, you should always address a French person in French first, and never assume that they speak or even understand English.
Staunton, Va.: My wife and I are planning on visiting Paris in mid August. What are the negatives of this time of year and the upsides? Thanks.
Clotilde Dusoulier: Re: August in Paris, the pros are that the weather is usually nice and that there is a uniquely relaxed atmosphere in the city. The con is that many businesses, including restaurants and food shops, close down during the month of August, or from mid-July to mid-August.
Washington, D.C.: My partner and I are planning a trip to Paris in November. We're vegetarians and chocolate lovers. Do you have any tips on essential chocolate stops? And is it possible to find fab veggie-friendly meals in Paris?
Clotilde Dusoulier: Paris is heaven for the chocolate lover, so you're going to have a wonderful time. Among my favorites, let me mention Patrick Roger (he has shops in the 6th and the 16th) and Arnaud Lahrer in the 18th. (As for vegetarian-friendly meals in Paris, please refer to the question from College Park, MD above.)
Oakland, Calif.: Hi! My fiancee and I are going to Paris and Provence for our honeymoon this summer. She has celiac's disease so is gluten-free. Any recommendations for her dietary restriction while there?
Clotilde Dusoulier: Unfortunately, the French tend not to be very well informed on the gluten-free diet, so eating out can prove a challenge. I suggest you print out one of those cards that explain (in French) what gluten-free means and what your fiancee cannot eat. In general, she should always ask that the chef hold the sauce (generally thickened with flour).
Of course, renting an apartment with a kitchen in which you can cook your own meals will make things a lot easier, and you'll be able to find gluten-free foods in natural foods stores.
Syracuse, N.Y.: Hello! My husband and I are thinking of taking a trip to Paris in the spring of 2009. I am a cheese lover and we would like to know if there are any cheese tasting tours anywhere in Paris or nearby. We both also want to be able to experience Paris but maybe take a day or two to see smaller, country towns near to Paris as well that give us a feel for a more simple France. Thanks in advance! Marci
Clotilde Dusoulier: I can't recommend a cheese tasting tour per se, but you don't really need a tour guide to taste cheese in Paris: if you visit a good cheese shop where they refine their own cheese (such as Laurent Dubois in the 15th), they'll be able to advise you on an assortment of what's best on that particular day.
Los Angeles, Calif.: We will be going to Paris for one week in June with children ages 5 and 8. What are some great kid friendly restaurants, cafes, meal ideas? What is absolutely a not to be missed event for kids in Paris? Thank you.
Clotilde Dusoulier: "Picnic-style" eating (see above) is perfect with children, and they'll likely enjoy visiting the markets to put together the menu with you. Other than that, large brasserie-style restaurants are kid-friendly, and I can recommend Chartier in the 9th, or Brasserie Wepler in the 18th.
Sao Paulo, Brazil: Please suggest some cooking ingrediants that are only available in Paris (or France) that I could buy to take back to Brazil. For instance in Brazil, we have dende oil, malagueta peppers, and a kind of canned cream that is used alot. I do not see these items other places. Merci.
Clotilde Dusoulier: For edible souvenirs that travel well, I can suggest hazelnut oil, fleur de sel, salted butter caramels, good mustard from Brives or Meaux, Tarbais beans, dried mushrooms, Espelette chili pepper... You'll find all those things at gourmet grocery stores, such as Lafayette Gourmet in the 9th.
Clotilde Dusoulier: Thank you very much for participation, and I wish you all a delicious stay in Paris!
You can read about my cooking pursuits on my blog, Chocolate & Zucchini, and take a look at my new book on Paris restaurants and food shops, Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris, in which I share more tips, recommendations, and recipes on how to navigate the Paris food scene.